I Get Your “OK Boomer” But Don’t Throw the Boomer Out with the Bathwater

Deb close up

by Deborah Padgett

My seventeen-year-old grandson is a financially successful entrepreneurial digital marketing coach and agency owner. Yesterday he used the term “OK boomer!” with one of his Facebook associates. I hadn’t heard the term before, and knowing him to be a kind and considerate kid, I was reluctant to jump to insulted and/or defensive mode. I “Googled” it and was thoroughly impressed with its origins, meaning and intent. “OK boomer is a viral phrase used to dismiss or mock those who seem dismissive of younger generations’ concerns,” says a November 12, 2019, BBC.com article featuring Abigail Disney (age 59), lashing out at Baby Boomers for taking offence and telling them to “sit … down and let the kids drive.”

As a Baby Boomer myself and a parent/parent-in-law to eight middle aged adults and grandparent to ten young adults ages 16-27, I have been deeply unhappy at the derisiveness, dismissal and ridicule hurled by people of my generation at the generations following ours. Of course, my children and my grandchildren have, at times, floundered and grasped and made decisions I’ve not understood as wise or even in the best interest of the world they have to live in. Of course, they have needed education, guidance, mentoring, support and an outstretched hand. Of course, as with all young adults they look at their world with an eye to all that could have been done better and with the hope they will do better than their parents. As with my generation, they look to new discoveries and the hopefulness of their peers, rather than with unquestioning adherence to the viewpoint of their elders. Remember the lyrics to Mike and the Mechanics, The Living Years,released in 1988? “Every generation blames the one before, when all of their frustrations come knocking at their door…”

Abigail Disney said, “The more often you object to Millennials’ understandable resentment toward a generation that has selfishly poisoned their water, blown past every climate warning so they could drive their stupid Hummers, and looked away or worse for sexual, racial and economic injustice, the more you prove their point that you just don’t understand anything of value to them.”

These Millennials who are bringing eyes and minds wide open to the need for immediate action on climate change, gun violence, equal rights, educational/financial reform, civil rights, fair housing, immigration reform, religious and reproductive freedom and eradication of poverty, carry forward the same fervor and conviction we baby boomers brought to the civil rights and anti-war movement as we came to adulthood. I can understand completely the Millennial generation’s view that we failed them. I am horrified at the great divide the baby boomers represent today. In the 1960s and 1970s we knew we were killing the planet. We knew endless wars over oil were immoral and that it was essential to move away from reliance on fossil fuel. We knew all people, everywhere, were created equal. We fought for civil rights, voting rights, equal status and affirmative action.

We made gains toward women’s rights, LGBTQ rights, freedom to choose not to bear arms; we ushered in waste reduction and water, animal and vegetable conservation. We were the peace and love generation.

So, dear Millennials, just so you know, some (many) boomers really areOK and we want you to know we’ve got your backs. We’re still a huge demographic that includes active, caring, participatory people of color, immigrants, gay, straight, trans women and men who decry greed, violence, bigotry, planetary abuse. Many of us will still be here making our contributions when you are grandparents. I embrace and applaud you and the change you bring to our world. Don’t discount me while I can still, along with you, help us realize a better world.

All generations would do well to keep in mind that hindsight is 20/20 and that, as Soren Kierkegaard said, “Life can only be understood backward; but it must be lived forward.”

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